Effect of dietary Lippia citriodora extract on productive performance and meat quality parameters in hares ( Lepus europaeus Pall.)
Three different dietary doses of Lippia citriodora natural extract were tested in order to verify their effect on productive performance and the meat quality of intensively-reared hare ( Lepus europaeus Pall.). The 240 day-trial was conducted on 20 male hares, divided into 4 homogeneous groups of 5 animals each. A control group received a basal diet without any supplementation, and the other three experimental groups received a natural extract of Lippia citriodora, titrated in verbascoside, in the following amounts: 1 g, 1.5 g and 2 g of natural extract/kg feed in the low (LNE), medium (MNE), and high natural extract (HNE) groups, respectively. Natural extract enhanced the quality of the meat: there was a significant decrease (P<0.05) in saturated fatty acids and a significant increase (P<0.05) in mono- and poly-unsaturated fatty acids. The oxidative stability of the meat improved, thus highlighting a possible link between the decrease (P<0.05) in TBARS values and an increase (P<0.05) in lipid vitamin content. The cholesterol content of the meat decreased markedly (P<0.01) after the dietary verbascoside treatment, thus improving the health benefits of the meat. These results clearly show the important role of Lippia citriodora extract, titrated in verbascoside, in improving the quality of the meat of intensively-reared hares. In addition the present paper underlines how the use of natural antioxidant in the animal feeding system may provide healthier and low-oxidized products to the final consumer.